THE QUIET CITY is an adult commercial novel, complete at 112,000 words.
Hezed is a poor, fatherless farmer in the ancient city of Jabesh-gilead, a
place so beaten by years of conquest that its people cannot greet a traveler
with more than a whisper. Hezed’s chief interest is winning the love of Anna
until he joins the army of Saul and is swept into a world of religion and
violence. Saul proclaims himself King of the Tribes, but his champion, David,
rebels to set up his own kingdom. Having fought under David’s command, Hezed is
a collaborator in the eyes of his own people, and they drive him and his family
away into the wilderness. Labeled a traitor to Saul—his greatest hero—Hezed flees
with Anna to the only refuge left: David’s band of rebels. Hezed must choose
between his love for David and his loyalty to Saul, risking the love and safety
of his beloved Anna. He searches the minds of the gods for answers, gods who
demand obedience without guidance, and his decisions lead to unbearable
tragedy. But in the end Hezed gives voice to his people in the Quiet City and
finds redemption through the love of his kidnapped slave.
In the spirit of Anita Diamant’s "The Red Tent," THE QUIET CITY skirts
well-known biblical characters, but it’s about the failure and fight of an
ancient nobody, a hero as tough as William Wallace, but with the sensitivity
and self-doubt of Frodo Baggins.
I have a B.A. in history and I work in the museum field. Thank you for taking
the time to consider my work.
My father was a stranger to me, a muscular, bronze body robed in blackish-brown
hair like a bear, grunting and sweating in the fields as he heaved a giant
bronze hoe into the earth or slashed a sickle blade through a field of brittle,
golden barley. I toiled behind him every day, matching his strokes with my puny
tools and grunting and wiping my biceps across my forehead. In the evening I
watched him eat my mother’s barley bread and drink the goat’s milk. I chewed my
olives three at a time the way he did.
“You’ll turn into an olive tree,” he’d say.
Each night after dinner my mother would take me and my sisters to the roof where
we laid our reed mats on the dry mud and timbers and pointed at the stars. The
two girls would whisper and giggle and wonder aloud why the gods lived so high
up, until they yawned and drifted to sleep. But I would lay awake and watch the
stranger’s bear-figure sitting on the corner of the roof, black against the
stars, staring out into the abysmal sky. During the day his movements were slow
and tired, but here at night he languished into deeper stillness, a sleeping
clay idol overlooking the courtyard. The hot morning sun always followed behind
his quiet, gentle nudging for me to get up and prepare for the fields.
When the Ammonites came in the midst of the spring festival, it was my father’s
low grunt that raised my head from the barley stalks I was bundling and told me
to run home. I would have hoisted a bale on my back first, but he snatched me
up by the shoulder and began to run himself, dragging me like a dead dog. And a
dead dog I would have been. Out of the stalks behind us rose strange men, not bare-chested
nor girded with linen loincloths for cutting barley in the heat of the day, but
clothed in leather tunics and belts and carrying long, pointed shafts. I
watched one of these strangers plunge his spear into the head of a farmer who’d
tripped and sprawled out on the path we’d just trampled through. His skull
cracked like an egg on stone and he squeaked once, reminding me of a mouse.
Then true screams began to fill the air. I opened my mouth too, but my lungs
had sucked themselves tight. All this happened as I ran, stumbled, was dragged
to the gates. I held my father’s arm with both of mine as we jostled through
the bodies trying to get through the bottleneck of panicked people. His arm was
like the solid hind leg of a bull marching boldly through a flock of goats, and
I hung on, my feet barely scraping the dirt. We flung ourselves past the city
walls. Our men of Jabesh barred the gates against the invaders and forbade
anyone to break the seal.